First there was the FNB banking app, then the option for FNB customers to buy phones, tablets and laptops directly from the bank and pay them off over a two-year period, followed by FNB Connect selling SIM cards. Now the bank has announced its own Android-powered smartphones, the ZTE-manufactured ConeXis X1 and A1. And it’s got a new R399/month unlimited calling option on its mobile network, too.
FNB’s been pushing mobile banking for years, and it’s no wonder. Good apps mean customers don’t have to go into branches or — heaven forbid — deal with bank employees face to face. And it means FNB can spend less on said employees and the branches in which they work.
Jan Kleynhans, head of consumer at FNB, says 380 branches around South Africa will be ready to begin distributing the new devices from this week. “Customers can walk in to a branch and walk out with a working phone,” he explains. No mucking about with RICA or SIM activations, because FNB already has all of the necessary documents if you bank with it.
Meet the contestants
The phones come bundled with an FNB SIM card and are SIM-locked to FNB’s network, and Kleynhans says porting can happen at branch. In other words, this is FNB’s hyper-aggressive play to get its customers to seriously consider using it’s telco offering.
As you’d expect, eBucks customers get discounts dependent on their rewards level, and eBucks back on their spend on airtime and data top-ups. Mobile banking is zero-rated, and you can buy airtime without airtime using the banks app, its online banking, its mobile banking service, or at an FNB ATM.
What’s cooking, good looking?
The ConeXis X1 weighs 133g, supports LTE, includes a 5.2in display, 8GB of storage (and a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 128GB), an 8MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing one, a 2540mAh battery, 1GB of RAM and a Qualcomm quad-core 1.3GHz processor. The phone runs Android Marshmallow.
For extra points, FNB’s included a 16GB microSD card, a screen protector, a protective back cover and a set of in-ear headphones.
The ConeXis A1, meanwhile, is the more entry level of the pair. It includes a 4in display, supports 3G, has a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front one, includes an FM radio, 8GB of storage and 1GB of RAM, and a 1400mAh battery. Mistry says this device is aimed at the lower end of the market, which may not have access to a car or desk charger, and as such, the A1 comes with a 2600mAh FNB-branded power bank.
Nice, umm, package
Both devices are available on 24-month contracts, and Mistry says there’s no credit check for existing FNB customers. The X1’s package costs R150/month while the A1’s is R59/month.
With the X1, that R150/month gets you the handset, 100MB of data and 25 minutes of calls each month. In the case of the A1, you get 50MB of data and 15 minutes of calls. The devil, then, is in the top-ups… but let’s not forget those eBucks carrots.
However, because this is “not a credit-driven product,” according to Kleynhans, customers are required to put down a deposit for the devices. The deposit is interest bearing and is returned at the end of the 24-month contract. For the X1, the deposit is R1,500, for the lower-end A1 it’s R500. There are no plans to offer the devices for outright purchase.
“We’re trying to promote overall healthy banking behaviour,” Mistry says. Adding that the educational videos included on the device teach users what they can do on their banking app, how to limit service charges and, of course, maximising their eBucks.
Both devices come with a 12-month warranty. “If you have a problem within seven days you can walk into a branch and swap it out,” Mistry says. “Within the warranty, we’ll collect and replace.” If you’re to blame for the damage, you can get your device repaired at any of iFix’s outlets.
Me and you and keeping things fair
FNB’s also taking the fight to other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) with an aggressive new SIM package. For R399/month consumers can get unlimited calls to any network and 100MB of data — which means you’ll need to top up, but FNB’s at pains to remind would-be users that they’ll get a discount on their data depending on their eBucks rewards level.
You’ll need to hold an FNB Gold account or better to be eligible for the R399/month package. FNB says there’s a fair use policy of 2000 minutes a month, but that customers aren’t automatically cut off if that limit is reached and breached, but cases will be considered individually.
FNB’s the first bank on the continent to have its own handset. Well, colour us impressed. That’s a shade of turquoise, right?